Each weekday, Tim will take a look at what we know about each of the upcoming 52 new comics from the September DC relaunch, one series at a time. Today: GREEN ARROW!
The Concept and Characters: One of DC’s oldest characters returns with a not-so-fresh creative team. Over the 70 years of his existence, Green Arrow has changed drastically from his Golden Age incarnation as a jolly Batman-with-a-bow, but the majority of those changes kicked into place by Neal Adams in 1969, when he gave the archer some facial hair and a distinctive sartorial style. His character redesign, and Adams subsequent work with Denny O’Neil on the “relevant” Green Lantern/Green Arrow run of the early 1970s, redefined Oliver Queen as a hot-headed liberal activist. He’s been stuck in that mold, with only changes in degree, ever since.
It’s not a bad mold to be in, honestly. Green Arrow has one of the strongest personalities of any of the DC heroes, and that makes him a potentially engaging protagonist. In guest appearances, he can be reduced to righteous temper tantrums, and in solo stories, the social message can outweigh the excitement of the narrative, but Green Arrow is a top-tier DC character who has played a consistently important role in the history of the DC Universe.
He has also been the focus of a few memorable runs, including the above-mentioned Green Lantern/Green Arrow comics, which, in many ways, defined the Bronze Age of American comics. The early 1980s gave him a four-issue mini-series, with exceptional artwork by a young Trevor Von Eeden, and Green Arrow would close out that decade with a light costume redesign and a new direction as an urban hunter in Mike Grell’s Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters and the ongoing series that followed for over a decade.
By the end of that series, after Grell left, the various creative teams peeled away the “urban hunter” concept and brought Oliver Queen back into the superhero fold. In the years since, the character has shifted back and forth between the two perspectives (gritty street-level anti-hero and gadget-infused superhero-of-the-people), with the most recent series, by writer J.T. Krul, emphasizing the edgy quality of a man with a bow and arrows trying to rid the streets of crime. The relaunched series, by the same writer, looks to bring back more of the superhero element. Including the trick arrows.
He will also apparently be something of a weapons master, not just a bow-and-arrow specialist, according to what Krul has said to the press. Though, in his mind, the character isn’t about just a bunch of gizmos: “For me, that agent of social change component is a core aspect of who Green Arrow is,” says Krul. “He’s driven to fight for the little guy — to stand up against what’s wrong with the world. He may not always have the solution to the world’s problems, but that won’t stop him from calling them out bluntly.”
The Creative Team: J.T. Krul, also the writer of the Captain Atom relaunch, seems to have a strong handle on Oliver Queen as a character, at least conceptually, but I have yet to read a Krul-written comic that was very good. I skipped most of the previous series, but in the few issues I did sample, Krul’s unsubtle handling of the characters didn’t give me much hope for the future of Green Arrow. The relaunch seems to have a slightly lighter point of view attached to it, with more of what Krul describes as a “James Bond” feel. But I haven’t yet seen Krul convincingly pull off such a tone in any of his previous work. My sense is that if he did aim for James Bond, we’d get the Paul W. S. Anderson version of a superspy.
The art is by Dan Jurgens and George Perez. These veteran artists will certainly do a nice job on the series, and Jurgens meat-and-potatoes layouts will benefit from the stylish rendering of Perez. Both artists have been working steadily in the comic book industry since the 1980s, and their visual approach to comics hasn’t changed much in all those years. With these guys, you know exactly what you’re going to get, and it’s never going to surprise you. But it will be competent work, bordering on comfortable.
Recommendation: Skip it. The look of Green Arrow won’t hurt the series, but Jurgens’s pencil work isn’t likely to break any new ground. So the determining factor will be the writing, and Krul has already written a dozen Green Arrow issues over the past year and a half to sample. From what I’ve seen, none of them are worth reading, and unless he radically changes his approach in this new series, the relaunched version won’t be any better.
Tim Callahan writes about comics for Tor.com, Comic Book Resources, Back Issue magazine, and his own Geniusboy Firemelon blog.